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Turbocharger System Operation

by Flight Learnings

in Aircraft Systems

Turbocharger operation.  On most modern turbocharged engines, the position of the waste gate is governed by a pressure-sensing control mechanism coupled to an actuator. Engine oil directed into or away from this actuator moves the waste gate position. On these systems, the actuator is automatically positioned to produce the desired MAP simply by changing the position of the throttle control.

Other turbocharging system designs use a separate manual control to position the waste gate. With manual control, the manifold pressure gauge must be closely monitored to determine when the desired MAP has been achieved. Manual systems are often found on aircraft that have been modified with aftermarket turbocharging systems. These systems require special operating considerations. For example, if the waste gate is left closed after descending from a high altitude, it is possible to produce a manifold pressure that exceeds the engine’s limitations. This condition, called an overboost, may produce severe detonation because of the leaning effect resulting from increased air density during descent.

Although an automatic waste gate system is less likely to experience an overboost condition, it can still occur. If takeoff power is applied while the engine oil temperature is below its normal operating range, the cold oil may not flow out of the waste gate actuator quickly enough to prevent an overboost. To help prevent overboosting, advance the throttle cautiously to prevent exceeding the maximum manifold pressure limits.

A pilot flying an aircraft with a turbocharger should be aware of system limitations. For example, a turbocharger turbine and impeller can operate at rotational speeds in excess of 80,000 rpm while at extremely high temperatures. To achieve high rotational speed, the bearings within the system must be constantly supplied with engine oil to reduce the frictional forces and high temperature. To obtain adequate lubrication, the oil temperature should be in the normal operating range before high throttle settings are applied. In addition, allow the turbocharger to cool and the turbine to slow down before shutting the engine down. Otherwise, the oil remaining in the bearing housing will boil, causing hard carbon deposits to form on the bearings and shaft. These deposits rapidly deteriorate the turbocharger’s efficiency and service life. For further limitations, refer to the AFM/POH.

518VcjVMo3L._SX402_BO1,204,203,200_Learn more about aircraft and their systems with A Pilot’s Guide to Aircraft and Their Systems by ASA. Pilot-oriented rather than mechanic-oriented, this guide to aircraft systems is designed specifically to help general aviation pilots understand how aircraft systems work so that they can better use them in flight.

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